The divisions within the Iranian establishment have deepened and become more evident than they had been because of the current uprising raging across Iran. These divisions seem to exist even among the Iranian clergy. Reformists condemn the government’s violent response while conservatives demand that protestors be “harshly punished” and “sentenced to death.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly called on the political forces to refrain from actions that could risk Iran’s unity and integrity. In the past, Khamenei warned that “bipolarity is detrimental to the country,” adding that the “enemies are waiting to take advantage of any polarity or conflict” among Iran’s political forces.
However, the recent developments in the country have once again revealed the depth of the great political multi-polarity within the Iranian establishment. In a commentary in the reformist Etemad newspaper, former government spokesman and long-time member of Iran’s intelligence community, Ali Rabiei, warned that Iran may face “bloody confrontations,” as the country’s uprising has been raging on for almost two months. He further stressed that there is a growing “pressure” from Iranian ultraconservatives “to disrupt the role of intermediary groups,” and monopolize power. Rabiei also stated: “The political participation of various political groups and parties was extremely limited in two consecutive elections. As a result, the ballot box lost its function of creating mediators, who played as go-betweens among various generations and their demands.”
The political conflict between the reformist and conservative factions shaped Iranian politics for almost two decades. However, the current conflicts are also within the conservative faction that rules the country, facing the regime with a threatening internal infight.